Keeping in touch with family and friends will become that much easier for seniors during this pandemic thanks to a pair of new programs put on by the CEED Centre Society in Maple Ridge.
The Seniors Party Line is a new teleconferencing program using the traditional telephone to keep seniors in touch.
How the program works is the names and numbers of participants are put into a platform like UberConference, that calls everyone at a set conference time to have a discussion.
Christian Cowley, executive director of the CEED Centre Society, said the new program, that was launched two weeks ago, is being used for seniors groups that used to meet at the centre, but who are unable to do so now because of the current COVID-19 restrictions, such as, the Purple Angels program and the Caregivers Cafe. And, it’s put on in partnership with the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Katzie Seniors Network.
“As you are well aware, isolation is really bad for your health. In the COVID context it’s really hard to stay connected,” said Cowley.
When the group first got together over the phone, he thought it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. But, the group setting, noted Cowley, allows participants to sit back and listen to others, and in many cases experience things they couldn’t in a two-way conversation.
“It’s kind of a different experience. It’s really powerful,” he said.
The other program that was launched by the CEED Centre Society is the Seniors Tech Peers program where seniors work with other seniors to help them access technology and platforms in order to stay connected with family.
A small plexiglass booth was built at the CEED Centre Neighbourhood House to allow two people to sit side-by-side.
Seniors, who are trained by CEED Centre staff to be peers, will sit alongside a fellow senior and train them how to use both the computer and the platform needed to connect with their loved ones – be it FaceTime, Messenger, Zoom, or another program.
And, because of a $25,000 grant obtained by the Seniors Network through the New Horizons for Seniors Program – a federal program that provides funding for projects that make a difference in the lives of seniors and in their communities – the CEED Centre is also able to supply and fix equipment.
If Cowley encounters a senior who is willing to try a computer or a tablet, who has one that’s so antiquated it’s basically useless, he, along with other volunteers, will be able to provide the senior with a machine or augment or fix their existing machines.
“We have a technology budget of about $15,000. And we can get computers for about $700,” said Cowley.
Through the Seniors Tech Peers program participants will learn about general computer procedures such as: how to use a mouse; how to open up the browser and what a browser is; how to be safe when they go online and teaching them about the prevention of elder abuse and scams; teaching them to read before they click; how to read a screen; and what the different parts of the screen are. Then they will learn the specifics of the communication platform they will be using to talk with their families.
For this program, though, participating seniors must have a certain amount of mobility since they must be able to get to the CEED Centre house for the mentoring.
Currently they are in the piloting phase of the program. Cowley is still recruiting and training tech teachers.
So far he has one qualified senior trainer and four seniors who have been able to get to the CEED Centre to learn.
Cowley is also hoping to involve youth in the program who will be considered a teammate. Teammates will give the seniors ideas on how to use the technology and through the process enrich each others lives, said Cowley.
He is hoping to eventually have about 10 peers who will each train up to two or three people in order to expand the program.
“We eventually want to network all the trainers and the youth and bring those two groups together when it is COVID-safe and actually have in-person meetings so that it is a richer experience,” he said.
The CEED Centre Society’s mission is to educate the communities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows about environment and development by fostering social connections and sustainable living practices.
For more information about either of the groups contact the CEED Centre Society at 604-463-2229 or go to ceedcentre.com.